Wednesday, March 5, 2014

PIE, the Daily Mail, and Downing Street child porn: a coincidence too many?

It may be that you are wondering why when a close associate and long time friend of the Prime Minister who works as an aide at No10 Downing Street is arrested for child pornography offences, the only comment by the Labour Party you can find comes from the otherwise nondescript John Mann MP, member for Bassetlaw and a member of the Treasury Select Committee whose concern is solely to be sure there are 'no policy implications'.

All very strange, although it is possibly not unconnected to the allegations surrounding Labour MPs Jack Dromey, Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt and their links to the Paedophile Information Exchange organisation while they were working for the National Council for Civil Liberties in the 1970's and 80's. That particular story has been rumbling around for many years now without getting a wider airing until the Daily Mail ran with it last December before going rather quiet on it.

Meanwhile, Patrick Horn - the adviser in question at Number 10 - was informed by Downing Street officials of the likelihood of his arrest on the 12th February, and was arrested in the small hours of the 13th February. It would appear that Downing Street was informed in advance of the arrest, and indeed warned Horn, which gave him an opportunity to resign his position before the arrest occurred. What else it may have given him an opportunity to do is a matter for speculation.

What interests me in all of this is the timing. If Horn was arrested in the small hours of the 13th, he was presumably interviewed that day, and very possibly the following day as well. Newspaper reports state that the police 'subsequently examined computers and offices used in Downing Street by Rock, who was the deputy director of No 10's policy unit'

'Subsequently' in this sense would appear to mean in the days following, ie either on Friday the 14th, or Monday the 17th.

How strange then that on Wednesday the 19th February, the Daily Mail - a Tory supporting newspaper - resurrected it's 13th December story about Labour links to PIE, and ran it on the front page not just that day, but for several days afterwards. I recall that when I read the first and following stories, I was slightly puzzled about several things.
  • Why now, when there was no 'new' evidence?
  • When new evidence began to appear, where did it come from? There was little to nothing by way of attribution accompanying the articles
  • Who was their source for this new information?
Now, perhaps I just worked at Westminster for too long, but I'm a bit cynical about the timing. The Harman/Dromey/Hewitt story continues to rumble on, but all of a sudden the timings look a bit too convenient to be entirely coincidental.

It is certainly strange indeed to discover that despite the arrest of a close ally of the Prime Minister which entailed the search of government computers for child pornography in Downing Street, the best Labour can muster is a statement from an obscure back-bencher and a few words from Tom Watson, who'd make a speech at the opening of an envelope if he thought it would get his picture in the Guardian.

So what did happen? I'm flying a bit of a kite here, but I suspect that someone in Downing Street had a brilliant idea. Say nothing about Horn until asked, but in the meantime get the Daily Mail to resurrect their story from December about Labour front benchers and PIE in the 70's and push it for all it was worth. Need more information to sustain a week's worth of front pages? No problem, we're the government, what do you need?

Now, nobody could think that the Horn situation could be hidden forever - it was only a matter of a couple of weeks, if not less, before someone noticed that he was no longer in Downing Street. But that, of course, doesn't matter. By then, the Labour leadership would - with luck - be embroiled in their own paedophile related crisis, and would be keen to not rock the boat on subjects related to senior officials and child pornography.

I can imagine the assessment when - and indeed if - such a scheme was dreamed up. In the short term, it would cause embarrassment to the Labour front bench while they dealt with the PIE allegations. By the time the Horn story came to light, Labour would not be keen to shout 'senior Tory paedophile' because they would be accused of hypocrisy, having vacillated over Harman et al. This is why the only Labour MPs sticking their heads above the parapet were publicity hungry backbenchers. In the long term, the genius at Downing Street would realise that the two stories would coalesce in the public imagination, party lines would be lost, and the 'they're all the same' mentality of the general public would take over leaving few memories of the specifics. Politicians are already held in such low esteem that that would make no difference, but it would prevent a political advantage - and political capital - being made by the Labour Party.

So, perhaps I am too cynical. Perhaps it was indeed a coincidence that the Daily Mail began pushing this story days after Horn's arrest, digging out new evidence regarding PIE from the 70's and 80's, and felt it was genuinely in the public interest. And perhaps the timing of the Horn arrest and the subsequent admission by Downing Street was motivated by good intentions. But my experience of Westminster is that such coincidences rarely happen.

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